Thank you to our interfaith friend Don Frew of the United Religions Initiative and the Interfaith Center of the Presidio for sharing this remembrance of Deborah Light, who passed from this life on July 21, 2015.
Last year, Deborah Ann Light was one of the first persons to be awarded the Covenant of the Goddess’ Award of Honor for outstanding service to CoG and the greater Pagan and Heathen community. This award was very well deserved.
In 1993, I was part of the group representing the Covenant of the Goddess at the first modern Parliament of the World’s Religions. CoG was one of three Witch groups that were Sponsoring Organizations, along with EarthSpirit and Circle Sanctuary. The Sponsoring Organizations had been promised that we would each have a representative in the Parliament’s “Assembly of the World’s Religious & Spiritual Leaders.” We arrived in Chicago to find that, due to an administrative snafu, there was only one space in the Assembly available for all three organizations. Of course, each group wanted their person to be the one chosen. This could have been an ugly situation.
As has been reported elsewhere, the three groups did a joint Full Moon ceremony in the park that was a highlight of the entire Parliament. Everything went off without a hitch and the 500 attendees were mightily impressed. What hasn’t been as well known is the role that Deborah played in all of this.
When the local authorities made it difficult for us to hold our ritual by demanding a million dollar insurance policy, Deborah, who was attending the Parliament, but was a closeted Witch, called up her insurance agent, came out to him as a Witch, and arranged the policy over the phone. That was the first time I met her.
After the Full Moon, the leaders of the three groups all sat in a room, looking at each other, knowing that we now had to decide who would represent all three of us in the Assembly. We were just too exhausted to fight about it. Suddenly, by the Lady’s inspiration, a light bulb went over all our heads. Deborah was a member of the Covenant of the Goddess, EarthSpirit, and Circle, and could represent all three groups!
We all went to Deborah and asked her to do this for us. She was daunted, since this was her first interfaith event and she had only come out publicly as a Witch that day, but she felt the Goddess calling her through all of our voices. She hesitated to take on such a responsibility, fearing she would not be able to see it through, since she knew she had lung cancer and her prognosis was for only a year more of life! She trusted in the voice of the Goddess calling her and agreed to take on the task we set before her. (She lived 22 more years and always attributed that extra gift of life to the fact that she was doing the work the Lady had called her to do.)
Deborah was exactly the right choice to be our face for most of the faith-leaders “first contact” with the Wiccan community. She was gracious, genteel, yet grandmotherly – sitting in meetings and quietly knitting until she spoke up with authority, bringing a new voice and a new point of view to the meeting of religious traditions.
As the Parliament prepared for its next meeting in 1999, they decided to enlarge the Assembly. Deborah proposed that she continue representing EarthSpirit, while Selena Fox and I joined representing Circle and Covenant of the Goddess, respectively. We three worked as a team in the Cape Town Assembly, effectively representing all three groups.
At the same time, in the late 1990s, the United Religions Initiative (URI) was forming, and holding Charter writing conferences at Stanford University. The URI planners invited members of the original Parliament Assembly to attend in 1997. In 1998, Deborah requested that I attend with her. By this time, we had become the first National Interfaith Representatives for the Covenant of the Goddess and traveled together to represent the Covenant at interfaith meetings all over the country. It was always Deborah’s charm and approachability that won people over.
Again, the story of our hosting “the Pagan lunch” at the 1998 URI Global Summit – gathering representatives of indigenous, tribal, Nature-based, Earth-centered, polytheistic, and/or Pagan traditions (interfaith language) – has been told elsewhere. What hasn’t been told is what happened when a young man – Christian de la Huerta – stood up in the general meeting to insist that we address the homophobia present in the religious traditions assembled. Deborah stood up to support him (coming out yet again!) and announced that they would hold an LGBT lunch the following day. That was a daring move, given how resistant many in the Interfaith movement were back then to acknowledge even the existence of homosexuality in their home countries! Thanks to Deborah’s and Christian’s courage, there was noticeable change in the interfaith movement even the following year.
In 1999 and thereafter, I attended the United Religions Initiative meetings on my own, but everyone – people gathering from all over the world – would ask, “How is Deborah? Please give her my love.”
Everyone always wanted to give Deborah their love. She called forth the love in everyone she met. We could never have asked for a better ambassador to the religions of the world. I could never have asked for a more loving and caring friend. She traveled across the country to attend Anna’s and my wedding party. This friend’s photo of her then is the best image I have of her.